It’s not difficult to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. Race was a construct developed to oppress. The intention was to keep those of non-European, especially non-northern European, ancestry in servitude. The rationale for doing so was part capitalistic, but also largely religious. Convinced that Jesus was white, and that the “New Israel” had passed to Christianized Europe, it didn’t take much theological maneuvering to get to the point that others can be—in that mindset, should be—brought into line. And since this religion comes with a built-in body-soul dualism, it’s not difficult to claim you’re trying to save a soul by destroying a body. That way you can still sleep at night while doing something everyone knows is wrong.
Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up to such ideas. His understanding of Christianity was more in alignment with what Jesus said and that threatened those in the establishment who found any challenge to profit heresy. There can be no denying that racism is one more attempt to keep wealth centralized. It’s something not to share, which, strangely enough, is presented as gospel. There are many people still trying to correct this wrong. It is wrong when a religion distorts its central message in order to exploit marginalized people. The key word here is “people.” Black people are people. Their lives matter and every time this is said others try to counter with “all lives matter, ” a platitude that misses the point. We need Martin Luther King Day. We need to be reminded that we’re still not where we should be. We’re still held in thrall to a capitalism that rewards those who use oppression to enrich themselves.
I was born in the civil rights era. I suppose I mistakenly reasoned that others had learned the message as well. All people deserve fair treatment. Today we remember a Black leader, but we still have the blood of many oppressed peoples on our hands. Those who first came to live in this country, whose land was stolen in the name of religion. Those whose gender and sex put them at threat by those who believe control of resources is more important that care of fellow human beings. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but in King’s words, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” If we believe that, and if we can act on it, there remains the possibility that we might actually achieve the reason we set this day aside to reflect.